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What Language Do They Speak in the Maldives?

What Language Do They Speak in the Maldives

Key Takeaways:

Official LanguageDhivehi
Script UsedThaana
Secondary LanguagesEnglish (widely spoken), Arabic (religious context)
Linguistic FamilyIndo-Aryan
InfluenceArabic, English, Sinhalese, Tamil
PopularitySpoken by the entire Maldivian population


The Maldives, an idyllic archipelago in the Indian Ocean, isn’t just known for its mesmerizing blue waters and picturesque beaches. Its rich cultural and linguistic heritage sets it apart on the global stage. The island nation’s language paints a vivid picture of its history, revealing influences from nearby regions and dominant global powers over the centuries.

1. The Core: Dhivehi

Dhivehi is the official and most widely spoken language in the Maldives. Rooted in the Indo-Aryan linguistic family, it holds a unique position due to its limited geographical distribution and the influences it’s absorbed.

Characteristics of Dhivehi:

  • Unique Script: Dhivehi is written in the Thaana script. This script is remarkable because it’s written from right to left, much like Arabic, and is indigenous to the Maldives.
  • Dialect Variation: The Maldives comprises 26 atolls, and dialects can vary between them. For instance, the southernmost atolls speak a dialect known as “Addu Bas”, which can be distinct from the dialects in the northern atolls.

Dhivehi Dialect Distribution:

MaléStandard Malé Dialect
Addu AtollAddu Bas
Huvadu AtollHuvadu Bas
Maliku AtollMaliku Bas

2. Historical Influences

Over the years, the Maldives has been influenced by various cultures and civilizations, reflected prominently in its language.

  • Arabic Influence: With the advent of Islam in the Maldives in the 12th century, Arabic left its imprint on Dhivehi, especially in religious contexts.
  • South Asian Influence: Being in close proximity to South Asia, Dhivehi borrowed elements from Sinhalese and Tamil languages.
  • European Influence: The colonial era brought English to the Maldives. As a result, modern Dhivehi includes English loanwords, especially in technology and governance.

3. Other Languages Spoken

Although Dhivehi holds the primary spot, other languages make their presence felt in the Maldives.

Noteworthy Secondary Languages:

  1. English: This is the second most popular language, particularly in:
    • Tourism sector
    • Government and official communications
    • Educational institutions
  2. Arabic: Due to religious affiliations, Arabic is taught in schools and is used during religious ceremonies and studies.

4. Dhivehi’s Global Presence

Given the Maldives’ status as a major tourist hotspot, Dhivehi has gained recognition, especially among avid travelers and linguists.

Dhivehi Outside the Maldives:

  • Maliku Atoll: Formerly part of the Maldives but now a part of India, this atoll still retains Dhivehi as a spoken language.
  • Online: With the internet breaking barriers, Dhivehi courses and resources are accessible for those interested in learning this exotic language.

5. Protecting and Promoting the Language

As with many languages spoken by small populations, there’s an ongoing effort to protect and promote Dhivehi.

Key Initiatives:

  • Education: Dhivehi is a compulsory subject in Maldivian schools, ensuring the younger generation is well-versed in it.
  • Media: Local TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers primarily operate in Dhivehi, allowing for widespread daily consumption.
  • Literature and Arts: Dhivehi literature, songs, and drama play a significant role in preserving the language’s essence and beauty.


The Maldives offers more than just breathtaking beaches; it offers a linguistic tapestry rich with history and culture. Dhivehi, the heart of this tapestry, tells tales of traders, explorers, and locals who’ve shaped this nation. While it remains predominantly a language of the Maldivian people, its story is undeniably universal.